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Oswego Career Ladders - Occupations in Transmission and Distribution

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Occupations in Transmission and Distribution

Industry: Energy
Area: Transmission and Distribution

(Adapted from Department of Labor Occupational Outlook Handbook)

Workers in production and installation, maintenance, and repair occupations install and maintain pipelines and powerlines and operate and fix plant machinery. For example, electrical powerline installers and repairers install and repair cables or wires used in electrical power or distribution systems. They install insulators, wooden poles, and light-duty or heavy-duty transmission towers. First-line supervisors and managers directly supervise and coordinate the activities of production and repair workers. These supervisors ensure that workers use and maintain equipment and materials properly and efficiently to maximize productivity.

Production occupations include power plant operators, power distributors and dispatchers. Power plant operators control or operate machinery, such as stream-driven turbine generators, to generate electric power, often using control boards or semi-automatic equipment. Power distributors and dispatchers coordinate, regulate, or distribute electricity or steam in generating stations, over transmission lines to substations, and over electric power lines.

Industrial machinery mechanics install, repair, and maintain machinery in power generating stations and gas plants. They repair and maintain the mechanical components of generators, waterwheels, water-inlet controls, and piping in generating stations; steam boilers, condensers, pumps, compressors, and similar equipment in gas manufacturing plants.

General maintenance and repair workers perform work involving a variety of maintenance skills to keep machines, mechanical equipment, and the structure of an establishment in repair. Generally found in small establishments, these workers have duties that may involve pipefitting, boilermaking, electrical work, carpentry, welding, and installing new equipment.

Office and administrative support occupations account for about a quarter of jobs in the utilities industry. Customer service representatives interview applicants for gas and electric service. They talk with customers by phone or in person and receive orders for installation, turn-on, discontinuance, or change in service. General office clerks may do bookkeeping, typing, stenography, office machine operation, and filing. Utilities meter readers read electric, gas or steam consumption meters visually or remotely using radio transmitters and record the volume used by residential and industrial customers. Financial clerks, such as bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks, compute, classify, and record numerical data to keep financial records complete. They perform any combination of routine calculating, posting, and verifying duties to obtain primary financial data for use in maintaining accounting records.

Professional and related occupations in this industry include engineers and computer specialists.

Engineers develop technologies that allow, for example, utilities to produce and transmit gas and electricity more efficiently. Computer specialists develop computer systems to automate utility processes; provide plant simulators for operator training; and improve operator decision making. Engineering technicians assist engineers in research activities and may conduct some research independently. Managers and administrators in the utilities industry plan, organize, direct, and coordinate management activities. They often are responsible for maintaining an adequate supply of electricity, gas or steam.


Utilities provide career opportunities for persons with varying levels of experience and education. However, because the utilities industry consists of many different companies and products, skills developed in one segment of the industry may not be transferable to other segments.

High school graduates qualify for many entry-level production jobs. In some cases, however, new safety and security regulations have led to stricter requirements for employment, such as documented proof of the skills and abilities necessary to complete the work. As a result, a degree from a college, university, or technical school may be required. Production workers may start as laborers or in other unskilled jobs and, by going through an apprenticeship program and gaining on-the-job experience, advance into better-paying positions that require greater skills or have greater responsibility. Substantial advancement is possible even within a single occupation. For example, power plant operators may move up through several levels of responsibility until they reach the highest paying operator jobs. Advancement in production occupations generally requires mastery of advanced skills on the job, usually with some formal training provided by the employer or through additional vocational training at a 2-year technical college.

Most computer, engineering, and technician jobs require technical education after high school, although opportunities exist for persons with degrees ranging from an associate degree to a doctorate. These workers are usually familiar with company objectives and production methods which, combined with college education, equip them with many of the tools necessary for advancement to management positions. Graduates of 2-year technical institutes usually fill technician positions. Sometimes, graduates of engineering programs will start as technicians until an opportunity to advance into an engineering position arises.

Managerial jobs generally require a 4-year college degree, although a 2-year technical degree may be sufficient in smaller plants. Managers usually can advance into higher level management jobs without additional formal training outside the workplace. Competition is expected to be keen for management positions, as industry restructuring is forcing utility companies to shed excess layers of management to improve productivity and competitiveness in the new deregulated environment.

Job Outlook

Wage and salary employment in utilities is expected to decline 1 percent between 2004 and 2014, compared with an increase of about 14 percent for all industries combined. Projected employment change varies by industry segment, as shown in table 4. Although electric power and natural gas are essential to everyday life, employment declines will result from improved production methods and technology, energy conservation by consumers and more efficient appliances, and a more competitive regulatory environment. However, this decline in employment may be tempered by an increasing demand for safety and security workers to help ensure the protection of the nation's power plants and the safe transportation and storage of its hazardous materials.


Overall, production workers in the utilities, gas, and electric industries had average earnings of $33,647 in 2009.

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